Childminder denies causing harm to 10-month-old baby

A professionally trained childminder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby.

Childminder denies causing harm to 10-month-old baby

The child’s mother told the trial of Sandra Higgins, aged 36, her daughter was “fine” on the morning of March 28, 2012, when she brought her to the defendant’s home.

Ms Higgins, of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home.

Alice Fawsitt, prosecuting, told the jury they would hear evidence that when Ms Higgins presented the child at Cavan General Hospital the baby was suffering seizures and had extensive bruising around the face and head.

Opening the State’s case, Ms Fawsitt said a medical expert would say “shaken baby syndrome” was the most likely cause of these seizures and retinal haemorrhaging and a detached retina.

She said they would hear evidence these injuries could not have occurred accidentally.

The child’s mother told Ms Fawsitt she travelled to the hospital after receiving a call from Ms Higgins.

“Sandra told me that my daughter was sitting down on the floor playing when she vomited and had a seizure,” she said.

Dr Alan Finan, a consultant paediatrician at Cavan General Hospital, told the court two of his colleagues briefed him as to the child’s condition on admission.

“She was unconscious, actively seizing, her limbs were jerking, she was pale and not responding as a normal 10-month-old would. She was not responsive and had no interest in her surroundings,” he said.

He said the child was given oxygen and medicine for convulsions.

Dr Finan described what he termed “extensive bruising” to the child’s face and head, on both sides of her forehead, and a significant underlying swelling on her hairline.

He also referred to bruising in her groin area and left buttock and described multiple small “fingertip” bruises on her back.

He said it was his “conclusive view” the injuries happened on the day the child was hospitalised. He said this was the only credible explanation.

However, defence counsel Remy Farrell told the court that in the doctor’s initial report, dated April 2, he stated that “precise dating of [the] injuries is not possible at this time”.

In the report he said this dating could be made upon further evaluation.

The baby’s mother said Ms Higgins kept a diary each day which was handed over during the Garda investigation.

She testified that she believed some of the entries about injuries and illness had been changed or added after March 28.

Mr Farrell put it to her the notebook had been forensically examined and there was no evidence entries had been made after the fact.

During yesterday’s hearing, the court was told that in early 2012 there were incidents of the child having bumps and bruises.

The mother recalled that on March 5 she noticed her daughter had a black eye. The defendant said the child had hit her head off the leg of the table, the witness testified.

A few days later the mother said she noticed that the bruise seemed to have “grown in size”. She said the defendant told her the child had fallen for a second time.

The mother said she was becoming increasingly concerned and discussed the matter with her husband and her friend.

She testified that on a number of occasions Ms Higgins had recorded that the child had vomited after eating her tea.

“I began to wonder if maybe my daughter had vomited from the upset of falling,” she said.

The mother told the court that an entry about the child bumping her head on March 22 was not there before.

References to the child vomiting on three dates in March and to falling over on toys on March 6 were not in the diary before the date of hospitalisation, the mother testified.

Under cross-examination she agreed with Mr Farrell that she did not read all the entries in the diary every day and she had not noticed other entries about bumps.

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury of six men and six women.

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